Candlemass' importance to the world of metal has been monumental in delivering some of the all time classics in the subgenre of epic doom metal and leader/songwriter/head doom merchant Leif Edling has been the helmsman at the wheel. With Mats Leven out as vocalist back in September following the release of the "House of Doom" EP and the initial recordings for what is now "The Door to Doom," Edling announced the triumphant return of Johan Längquist, who sang on the band's debut "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus," arguably the greatest doom metal album ever, and the "how to manual" for subgenre.
As if the opening credits started to roll over a cloud of dust over Tokyo in an Heisei period Godzilla film, the foreboding tone of "Splendor Demon Majesty" blasts forth....and you just know this is going to be total destruction in a supremely enjoyable way. The quintessential Björkman riff coils, hooves digging the ground below, brandishing the horn of its rhinoceros head as it begins to charge...and then as if the heavens opened the solemn tone of Längquist's voice pours out like a smooth chocolate fountain and decades of longing to hear it again comes full circle. My god...its just like with John Arch...the perfect voice had been bottled up from since the mid-80's, preserved in time from under-use! Instantly, this listener is transported back in time. Edling's goal was reconnecting back to the moment of the pure perfection in creating the ultimate doom metal album, when Candlemass was the direct heir of the mighty Black Sabbath itself - and by gods....his will be done!
In a punishing assault of lead-laden riffs, "The Door To Doom" sets forth the winning formula that has become Edling's trademark. The first word I could think of as the waves of calamity rained upon me is "filthy." From the cries of Lasse's guitar ("Under the Ocean") to the density of Björkman's strums ("Black Trinity") and the pounding of Jan Lindh's snare ("Death's Wheel") there is a pure filth that spews out of dark allies like an amorphous, liquid-like form, bonding to the listener like Venom. It has the power to sharpen the senses and focus the mind, which craves more and more and more until it leaves the body to convulse in withdrawals from the final seconds of "The Omega Circle." Of course, Längquist shines at his brightest when songs get "calm" (remember "Solitude"?) as on the brilliant "Bridge of the Blind" and the catastrophically dazzling "Astorolus - The Great Octopus" (which features the great Tony Iommi for a guest solo).
You can take your "New Wave of Traditional Metal," or whatever is fashionable in central Europe to bring back the thin crap sounds of the 80's and continue to devolve back to "purity" (something I argue can't ever be recaptured), but if you mess with my epic doom metal in the even the slightest way...THAT is where I draw the line. Epic doom is so patently perfect that Leif can simply alter the structure the same songs on every album and it would still grab my attention every time. Years by on virtual auto-pilot in the world of metal and its hundreds of subgenres, but the moment a great epic doom metal album is released (a la Candlemass, Grand Magus, Below, Avatarium....) it matters not how many times I have heard the riff before...it will be on endless repeat in my ears.
The modern craze of recapturing the sound and feel of 20-30 years ago seems to be all the fashion in recent days...but it is not an easy task to pull off. Musicians get older, the thought processes that go into creating the masterpieces of old are different and the atmosphere - both political and social - has dramatically changed, or shifted. Most of the time, you have to take the "return to roots" and "bring it all back to where it all started" talk with a grain of salt, with the end result akin to a 70 year old man trying to relive the all night benders of his former 21 year self. However, if there is one person you can trust to pull of the monumental task of creating the sequel to a masterpiece, its Leif Edling. So does the "The Door to Doom" compare to the greatest doom metal album of all time? Pretty damn close!
While the material of "The Door to Doom" is quite comparable to "Epicus," there was a feel on that earlier recording that still sets it apart from its 33 years in the making sequel. I don't know if it was the recording devices of the time - the air - the drum sound - the youthful vigor of musicians out to prove themselves - or the eerie, but subtle hiss in the song gaps....but something added to the atmosphere of that original darkness. "The Door to Doom" is downright filthy and perfect in its own way, but it is incredibly hard to take the last 33 years of recording technology and music experience and try to sound unpolished. However, in terms of musicianship, Candlemass never ceases to comeback from a virtual eternity of calling it quits to show the entire metal world how metal is supposed to be played!
Label: Napalm Records (order the album here)
1. Splendor Demon Majesty
2. Under the Ocean
3. Astorolus - The Great Octopus
4. Bridge of the Blind
5. Death's Wheel
6. Black Trinity
7. House of Doom
8. The Omega Circle